Johannesburg - They lifted the roof of the truck they were being transported in and jumped out of the vehicle as it moved.
As the driver negotiated the busy street, apparently unaware of what was happening at the back of the vehicle, the men - arrested for a series of crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and fraud - jumped out one by one.
Startled motorists and pedestrians looked on in shock as the men quickly disappeared into the houses nearby.
When the motorists and other witnesses managed to finally draw the attention of the driver, five of the men had already escaped.
More than two weeks later, the men were yet to be rearrested on Tuesday.
Police recaptured one escapee initially arrested for fraud. Four others, who had been arrested for serious crimes, are still at large.
On the afternoon of Thursday, August 21, * Tanana was in a taxi with other people passing Protea Gardens in Soweto.
The commuters saw a police truck moving slowly in traffic and people jumping out from the back as it moved.
“We did not know what was happening. We just saw a hole in the roof and people jumping out of it. It seems as if the driver was not aware of what was happening, but later saw people shouting at him and flagging him down, telling him that people at the back were escaping.
“We heard a gunshot (from the police officer) and people who had jumped out of the vehicle disappearing between the houses. There was nothing he could do,” the 68-year-old woman said.
As the incident unfolded, Tanana said, they sat laughing in the taxi.
“It was a joke, we saw a film live that day,” she said.
Tanana said they also asked themselves where the awaiting-trial prisoners had got the tools to lift the roof of the truck.
She said there was only one officer in the truck at the time.
Police spokesman Kay Makhubela said the truck was coming from the Protea Magistrate’s Court, where the awaiting-trial prisoners had appeared.
They were being transported to Johannesburg Prison at the time of the incident.
He said the other police officers who were following the truck saw what was happening and alerted the driver.
“He found that they had jumped out of the roof. He went back to court to ascertain how many had escaped and found that it was five.
“Four were arrested for serious crimes such as murder and rape. One who had been arrested for fraud was later rearrested.
“We don’t know what they used to lift the roof and we are investigating,” Makhubela said.
He said one of those who had escaped is Michael Eugene Adams, who had been arrested for murder, kidnapping, rape and seven robberies.